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Mastectomy

Front view of woman's chest with dotted line around breast showing skin incision for mastectomy.

Mastectomy is surgery to remove the breast. The most commonly done mastectomies are called simple and modified radical. During these procedures, the chest muscle is not removed. As a result, arm strength remains. Keeping the chest muscle also makes reconstruction easier.

Simple Mastectomy

Breast anatomy with tumor in duct and outline around lobules, ducts, and fatty tissue to be removed.

During a simple mastectomy, the breast tissue (lobules, ducts, and fatty tissue) and a strip of skin containing the nipple are removed. This surgery most often requires a hospital stay. Based on the results of surgery and follow-up tests, further treatment may be needed.

Modified Radical Mastectomy

Breast anatomy with tumor in duct and lobule.  Outline around lobules, ducts, fatty tissue, and lymph nodes to be removed.

This type of mastectomy is usually done to treat invasive cancer. During the mastectomy, the breast tissue and a strip of skin with the nipple is removed. A sentinel node biopsy (SN) is often done at the time of surgery. This is done to check if the cancer has spread into the lymph nodes. If the SN is negative at the time of the surgery, the procedure is completed without performing axillary lymph node dissection (removal of lymph nodes in the underarm area). If it is clearly positive, then axillary lymph node dissection is performed. Sometimes a surgical drain is placed to keep fluid from building up. This drain is removed 3–4 days after surgery but may remain longer. Removal is based on amount of drainage per 24 hours. Modified radical mastectomy almost always requires a hospital stay. Based on the results of the surgery and follow-up tests, further treatment may also be needed.

Risks and Complications of Mastectomy

  • Pain or numbness under the arm

  • Bleeding or infection

  • Stiffness of the shoulder

  • Fluid collection (seroma)

  • Long-term swelling of the arm (lymphedema)

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 5/15/2011
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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